Well, it has come to my realization that the chicken coop is just like high school. Well, my chicken coop anyway............
In high school, you have the popular girls. And in that group of "populars" there is one alpha girl. In the coop, those popular girls would be the head hens, with their one bossy ring-leader. In our coop, that's Dorothy. She was the chubbiest chick when we brought her home, and she is still our biggest hen. She's a great layer, but man is she bossy! Hen pecks anyone that gets in her way, just like the most popular girl in school would have pushed a lesser ranked person out of her way.
And just like in school, there is an out-cast girl. You know the one that waits till everyone else is already in class to slip into the back or the room? That would be our Claire. She's very shy and stand-off-ish. She lets all of the other girls run over her and very rarely fights back. She accepts her rank as low girl on the totem pole.
Now we also have new transfers and underclass men. The new transfers are Molly and Arrianne, two hens that we bought as 8-week-olds and brought home to quarantine and raise up til they were big enough to go in with our first girls. They were introduced slowly to the flock (in the smaller cage in run method) and turned loose with the other girls about a week ago. They are still so shy with the other girls. And the other girls, even Claire take full advantage of their meekness. They get picked on a good bit, not enough to get really hurt, but they are last to the feed and water every day and always run over when it's treat time.
And the underclassmen are the Rhode Island Red chicks that are being brooded in a half-way house of sorts, too big for the brooder, too small for the big girls coop and run. They do get out to free-range with the other girls and they are learning quick to stay out of the way. They get pecked and jumped on if they get too close to the big girls, so they tend to hang all together in the shade at the lower part of the yard.
Now, from the very beginning, I have been dead-set against having a rooster. I just want eggs, so I saw no need for a roo. I guess you'd say I pictured him like the head honcho jock type, running the show. But the more I read, the more I suppose a roo would really take more of the role of a headmaster, keeping the girls in line and preventing the hen-pecking from going too far. With the exception that most headmasters don't mate with the students....) I'm not saying I've changed my opinion on a roo, but I'll say I'm considering it more.
I'll tell you, when I first brought home my chicks, I'd have never thought that their social order would be so complex. I honestly thought I could bring chickens in and take them out as I wanted and they would just get along, no worries, no problems. I had no idea there would be cliques and the coop would be so much like high school!